USA Today columnist Barbara Reynolds said President Bush’s heart is not in the right place on civil rights issues at a C-SPAN-televised panel discussion Friday afternoon.
The five-person discussion, held at the Center for American Progress think tank in downtown D.C., involved Reynolds, veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas and GW media law professor Carl Stern, a former reporter for NBC News. The discussion focused on the journalists’ firsthand experiences covering the 1960s civil rights movement.
An audience member at the event asked the panelists if they thought Bush would be remembered as giving a boost or dealing a setback to the civil rights movement.
Reynolds said, “He has to prove to me he’s not a racist, and he hasn’t done that yet.”
Reynolds, an outspoken black journalist and adjunct professor at the Howard University School of Divinity, is also the author of several books including “No I Won’t Shut Up.” Reynolds cited more than 60 million people “who can’t even go to a doctor, and many of these are people of color.”
Thomas, a critic of the Bush administration, said she does not think the president is racist, and that “his heart’s in the right place, but I don’t think he knows how to pursue (civil rights goals).”
Stern compared the American public’s support of the civil rights struggle in the 1960s with the ambivalence of Americans over the current Iraqi war and said there is “national unity that is sorely lacking in today’s era of spin.”
Chuck Conconi, the former editor-at-large of Washingtonian magazine, commented about the difference between society now and in the 1960s.
“The worst thing that happened was when we did away with the draft,” Conconi said. “If there was a draft, there would be people out in the street protesting. It doesn’t affect you now.”